While I am not a fan of President Trump’s policies, I sympathize with the tough political situation he is enduring.
Though Republicans control the House and the Senate, it has been very difficult for the president to pass any major legislation. This is the case because, ideologically, the GOP is hopelessly divided.
The party’s moderate members oppose the policies of the far-right; the social conservatives are at war with the Libertarians; the isolationists won’t do business with the war hawks.
In other words, on paper, Republicans control Washington, but in practice, they are utterly impotent, wrecked by in-fighting and unable to govern.
As a result, Trump has not been able to move his agenda through Congress, instead resorting to executive orders to effect change. And this strategy has allowed the president to secure some victories, including the approval of new oil pipelines and withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership.
However, Trump cannot lead entirely in this fashion. He will eventually need to work with Congress to accomplish the major items on his agenda.
And since he cannot rely on the GOP alone, his only option is to work in a bipartisan manner and bring Democrats to the table as well.
Achieving this will require a serious effort. Namely, the president must recognize that – up until now – his agenda has been too extreme. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Trump administration’s proposed replacement for Obamacare, stands to rob 23 million people of their health insurance.
His first budget proposal cuts billions from food stamps, Social Security and medicare to add more money to an already-bloated defense budget.
And on immigration, he has directed the federal government to prioritize for deportation every undocumented individual in the country.
If Trump wants Democrats to work with him — something he needs to achieve anything of consequence — he must moderate and pivot away from these far-right positions.
That doesn’t mean surrendering his conservative principles –merely presenting them in a way that appeals to both sides.
For example, one of his top goals is to build a wall on our southern border. To coax Democrats into collaborating on this project, he should offer them some concessions. First, in exchange for their votes, Trump should support a path to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants already in the country.
These individuals, many of whom are our neighbors, friends, and colleagues, are just as American as we are. Trump can grant them citizenship and still vigorously go after the violent illegal immigrants who threaten public safety.
And instead of funding the wall by cutting the safety net — what Trump currently wants to do — he should suggest paying for it in a more progressive fashion, perhaps with a carbon tax, a long-time Democratic goal that would simultaneously fight climate change and raise $80 billion a year.
This sort of compromise would appeal to both parties and pass Congress. Trump and the Republicans would get their border wall; Democrats would get justice for undocumented immigrants and a new tool for fighting climate change.
Everyone wins, and Trump knocks a major item off his agenda.
In sum, if the president continues to solely do business with congressional Republicans, nothing will get done. The country’s great problems will continue to worsen.
Negotiating bipartisan deals with Democrats would be politically unpopular, but it is necessary for Trump to deliver on his famous four-word promise: Make America great again.
Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.